CAR rebel groups announce ceasefire ahead of Sunday vote

The coalition of Patriots for Change says a 72-hour unilateral truce will be observed across the Central African Republic.

CAR's President Faustin-Archange Touadera is competing for a second term, while a new parliament is being elected at the same time [Reuters]

A rebel coalition that has been fighting the government in the Central African Republic (CAR) has said it will observe a unilateral ceasefire in the run-up to Sunday’s elections.

A statement issued by the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), which began an offensive against the government last Friday, said a “72-hour unilateral ceasefire … will be observed across the country by all patriots’ fighting troops”.

The statement also called on the government to “also observe a ceasefire over the same period” and urged President Faustin-Archange Touadera to “suspend the elections, whose conditions for sound organisation have never been good”.

The document, dated Wednesday, was confirmed to the AFP news agency on Thursday as authentic by two of the six groups in the CPC – the 3R and the Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa (FPRC).

The ceasefire announced in the CPC statement would expire before voting day, if Wednesday is considered the starting date.

Government spokesman Ange-Maxime Kazagui dismissed the document, which he said was “unsigned.”

“It’s a unilateral ceasefire, a non-event, and we haven’t seen these people stop what they’re doing,” he told AFP.

On Wednesday, the United Nations and human rights activists had warned against pre-election violence, with the former calling it a serious threat to the security of civilians and their right to vote.

There have been reports of attacks on security forces, electoral candidates and election officials, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

Human Rights Watch said at least five civilians were killed in the clashes and thousands had fled.

A new rebel alliance has clashed with security forces in different parts of the country in recent days, including near the capital, Bangui, according to the UN.

According to MINUSCA, the UN peace mission in the country, the rebels are being supported by former President Francois Bozize, who was barred from standing for re-election by the Constitutional Court.

The attacks were reportedly aimed at halting the elections, in which Touadera is competing for a second presidential term while a new parliament is being elected at the same time.

French condemnation

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned actions by armed groups and individual politicians including Bozize during a phone call with Touadera on Wednesday, the Elysee Palace announced.

The oil-rich CAR has been battered by conflict for years, with clashes between a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition and Christian militias after Bozize was toppled in 2013.

A French military intervention together with a UN peace mission temporarily stabilised the country with a peace accord signed in 2019, but there are recurring violent flare-ups.

The recent rise of violence has prompted Russia and Rwanda to deploy military consultants and troops in the country.

Source: AFP